There’s been a pungent stink wafting off the front pages of this week’s papers.
At the centre has been Huw Edwards: BBC broadcaster; announcer of the Queen’s death; and establishment sock puppet. The news anchor was accused of sex crimes by the phone-hacking, life-wrecking, lie-factory that is The Sun newspaper.
The Sun is a screaming spittle-flecked rag, owned by a repugnant billionaire media mogul. The BBC is the sneering face of the British establishment. These two have been fighting like mad dogs this week, landing blows each other via the headlines.
Whatever the truth behind the allegations, we can say for certain that it’s time for these crazed, mangy old institutions to be put out of their misery. They’re not doing anyone any good.
BBC: Mouldering establishment mouthpiece
When The Sun first published the story, it had an air of believability. The details are unclear, and largely irrelevant. In short: The Sun’s editors asserted that the BBC can’t be trusted. And the BBC’s record proves them right.
There were echoes of Jimmy Savile, the infamous TV presenter, who sexually abused up to 450 people during his career. From as early as 1973, BBC executives knew what Savile was up to, but his connections with Tory politicians and the monarchy kept him safe. The BBC ignored what was going on, and helped to cover it up.
The police launched Operation Yewtree in 2012. This resulted in the arrest and conviction of multiple BBC stars for sexual offences. Today, Operation Hydrant continues to investigate child sex abuse allegations, and includes scores of suspects with careers in the media.
The BBC has form for giving big names freedom to do whatever they want, protected by cozy chumminess between Beeb chiefs and the political establishment.
More recently, there’s plenty of evidence that ‘Auntie’ is just like every other corrupt establishment institution. It uses hypocrisy, double standards, and mutual back-scratching to protect those at the top, in the interests of the rich and powerful in Britain.
In March, Gary Lineker was bundled off air for publicly criticising the government by tweeting support for refugees. That same month, Fiona Bruce cheerily defended Boris Johnson’s father on Question Time – interrupting a panellist to explain that, even though Johnson Snr. hit his wife and hospitalised her, “it was a one-off” and should be “contextualised”.
Also in March, the BBC refused to air an episode of David Attenborough’s programme Wild Isles, which highlighted nature loss in the UK, due to objections from Tory politicians.
The BBC doesn’t just censor those the Tories don’t like – it actively goes after them.
Last month, the BBC triumphantly broadcast Nicola Sturgeon’s arrest. It enthusiastically joined the coordinated Westminster mission to drag the SNP face-down through the dirt. Yet Sturgeon was released without charge after a few hours of questioning – a minor detail for the BBC.
Clearly the BBC enjoys a muck-rake as much as anyone, as long as it’s in the establishment’s interest.
The BBC’s hysterical attacks on Jeremy Corbyn, while he was Labour leader from 2015-19, were on another level. He was a threat to the British capitalist class, thanks to the mass movement that erupted around him. So, the BBC churned out barefaced lies to destroy him.
During his time as leader, the BBC published articles accusing Corbyn of being a Czech spy, a bully and a misogynist, an anti-Semite, a traitor, and worse. And it broadcast endless slanders against Corbyn and his supporters, including the scandalous Panorama hatchet job.
It got so bad that even the BBC had to admit that it was biassed against Corbyn, issuing a public statement that the then-political editor Laura Kuenssberg had broadcast an inaccurate report attacking Corbyn.
The tornado of untruth, half-truth, hypocrisy, cover-ups, and establishment propaganda from the BBC has devastated public trust in ‘Auntie’. In 2018, 75% of people trusted the BBC. By 2022 that had collapsed to 55%. And by May this year, it had fallen to 44%.
So, when the face of BBC News was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Beeb was accused of covering it up, you could feel the last residue of public trust in the public broadcaster going down a particularly fetid drain.
The BBC, like the establishment it represents, is a festering abscess.
The Sun: Frothing frenzy of reaction
But as the story grew, it emerged that The Sun had exaggerated, lied, and manipulated the facts.
What a surprise! Who’d have thought that Britain’s least-trusted newspaper (with only 6% of the public trusting it) might have lied?
Let’s remind ourselves of the record of this reactionary rag since Rupert Murdoch took it over in 1969.
From 1970 to 2015, The Sun printed topless photos of young women, some as young as 16, on page three. If you’re wondering how the paper can square this practice with its hysteria over Huw Edwards, who is accused by the tabloid of having paid a 17-year-old for explicit images, the answer is simple: it can’t.
The paper vigorously supported Thatcher, and drooled over the Falklands War in 1982. The Sun boasted about “sponsoring a missile” to kill Argentinians, and published the front-page headline “GOTCHA” when the Argentine ship General Belgrano was torpedoed killing 368 people.
The Sun’s support for Thatcher was matched by its hatred of the labour movement. It called Labour leader Michael Foot an “old fool”, and left Labour MP Tony Benn “insane”, complete with a fabricated psychiatrist’s report.
In 1984, the paper tried to portray Arthur Scargill – leader of the miners’ strike – as a Nazi, with the headline “Mine Fuhrer”, but print workers refused to print it.
In 1986, Murdoch brutally crushed the print workers union, accompanied by mass sackings of his workers.
In 1987, The Sun offered gay men free one-way tickets to Norway to leave Britain permanently. It whipped up hysteria around AIDS, which the paper described as a “gay blood plague”. And it outed cabinet minister Peter Mandelson in 1998, with an accusation that Britain was run by a “gay mafia”.
In 1988, the paper wrote of the Birmingham Six that: “If the Sun had its way, we would have been tempted to string ‘em up years ago”. In 1991, these six Irishmen were found to have been falsely convicted for the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, having had confessions beaten out of them by the police. A good job The Sun didn’t get its way.
In 1989, The Sun blamed Liverpool football fans for their own deaths in the Hillsborough disaster, when 97 people were crushed due to the actions of the police. To this day, The Sun is boycotted in Merseyside.
Throughout the 1990s, the paper lobbied for privatisation of state-run industries and cuts to public services.
In the 2000s, The Sun accused a “tide” of illegal immigrants of bringing terrorism and infectious diseases into Britain, along with a bizarre fabricated front-page about asylum seekers slaughtering and eating swans. This was followed up in 2015 with descriptions of migrants as “cockroaches” and “feral humans”.
In the first half of the 2010s, The Sun was entangled in Operation Elveden and the Leveson Inquiry, which investigated newspapers that worked with corrupt police officers to hack phones and dig up gossip.
Several of the tabloid’s journalists were arrested and tried, resulting in one conviction, amid allegations of a “culture of illegal payments” being authorised at the highest levels of the paper.
In 2019, The Sun published that “Jeremy Corbyn is at the centre of an extraordinary network of hard-left extremists pieced together by former British intelligence officers”. This story turned out to be lifted wholesale from antisemitic far-right conspiracy websites The Millenium Project and Aryan Unity.
The Sun’s business model is to boost circulation with lies, scandal, and gossip. Then it uses its platform to pump out right-wing manure on behalf of the most vicious elements of the British ruling class.
The Huw Edwards story fulfils both aims. It provides salacious gossip. And at the same time, it attacks the BBC – a long-time target of the swivel-eyed, right-wing lunatics in the Tory Party and in Britain’s media boardrooms.
Whatever the substance of the allegations against Edwards and the BBC, The Sun is the least trustworthy source imaginable when it comes to establishing the truth.
Police reassurances: A bad joke
The Metropolitan Police has also been involved in the Edwards case, declaring that there’s no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing, despite The Sun’s claims.
Of course, this assurance will set nobody’s mind at rest.
The Met Police was described as “institutionally racist, sexist, and homophobic” by an official report in March. In the past few years alone, serving officers have kidnapped, murdered, raped, degraded, and harassed members of the public – mostly women and children.
Furthermore, in recent years, the Met has also turned a blind eye to scandals involving other pillars of the establishment, most notably regarding the allegations of paedophilia against Prince Andrew.
The Chief Inspector of the Police warned last month that public trust in the police is “hanging by a thread”. Polls show that less than 50% of people in the UK think that the police do a good job.
The Met Police says there’s been no criminal wrongdoing. But that’s about as reassuring as a safety certificate for a Titan submersible.
For a workers’ alternative
It’s been a farcical spectacle to watch these two establishment mouthpieces tear chunks out of each other, while a disgraced police force tries to tell us that everything is OK.
Such splits and scrapping at the top are a symptom of the dead-end that the ruling class in Britain finds itself in; another reflection of the crisis that grips the regime.
Two key representatives of British capitalism are dragging each other into the gutter, mutually destroying their collective credibility.
While this rubbish has dominated the headlines, ordinary people are being crushed between inflation and rising interest rates; workers are striking in one sector after another; and the planet is enduring its hottest months on record.
These are the issues that really affect our lives. All the while, politicians make matters worse, and the mainstream media wallows in lies, hypocrisy, and tittle-tattle.
If we want something different to the overflowing public toilet that is the British establishment and its media, we need to build it ourselves. If we want the truth, and reporting on issues that actually matter to workers and young people, then we need to make that happen.
This is Socialist Appeal’s mission. We aren’t run by Murdoch billionaires or Tory BBC chairmen. We’re funded and run by thousands of working-class people like you.